By Donna Rose
Former Executive Director
LGBT Community Center Coalition
The only constant in life is change. Recognizing and analyzing that paradox is a central theme to much of what we think, know, experience, and believe. From Aristotle to Plato and beyond there are attempts to explain it, to manage it, or to rationalize it. I sometimes feel like a poster-child for change, and over time I’ve eventually come to peace with the fact that it just is.
Sometimes change just happens over time. Sometimes we make it happen through action or effort. Realistically, though, I’d argue that the end result of most things is often some combination of the two. It’s nothing to be mourned. It’s nothing to apologize for. It’s not a failure. It’s a natural part of growth. And life.
I have been the first executive director for the Central PA LGBT Community Center Coalition based in Harrisburg for almost five months. Being the first of anything often means covering uncharted territory and that, too, is a role I’ve come to know well. It forces people out of their comfort zones. It forces people to take risks. It involves discovery. And, it involves change.
I write this in the shadow of recent news that the board of directors and I have agreed to an amicable parting. In fact, today is my last day as executive director and I find myself contemplating a number of things.
First, it needs to be stressed that there is no blame here. A first natural response when a relationship ends is to find someone to blame. In this case – there truly is none. There is a significant difference of opinion on a number of critical things which is testament to the passion that we all bring to the table. A far worse outcome would be apathy, and I can assure you that there is none of that involved. Regardless of our strategic differences we all remain dedicated to the same high ideals that forged our relationship in the first place.
Not only do I personally not hold any animosity towards anyone, I find myself appreciating the opportunity I’ve had to forge a world of new friends and relationships that will last far beyond this role or my residence here. I hope and expect that members of the board feel similarly, and that the end of our relationship truly is an amicable one.
Second, the concept of a community center is a critical one. I can’t urge anyone reading this strongly enough – get involved! If you believe, as I do, that our kids not only deserve but need a place to find education and support, that the key to overcoming ignorance and hate is education, and that the personality of an organization needs to represent the broad spectrum of its leadership then don’t step back. Step forward. Get involved, speak up, and BE the change.
Legacy is an important concept in my world. The thought of leaving the world as a better place than when I got here in ways that endure is central to many of my efforts.
It gives me purpose. It is fuel to my passions. I like to believe that even in my short time in this role that I leave a legacy here that is a positive one. I like to think that the lives we’ve touched, and that the people who shared our passion, and that those who looked for role models and leaders will be those leaders here tomorrow and moving forward.
Another important concept is Potential. The reason I uprooted myself from a comfortable life in Arizona to come here to an uncertain future is the potential that this concept of a community center has here. My most significant personal disappointment as I step down is that we have not been able to realize that potential. It’s not because anyone was any more or less dedicated to the mission of equality – and it’s that commitment that needs to be stressed. Rest assured, I and the board were and remain committed.
A third concept that holds specific significance for me is Relevance. The growth and the health of any organization or cause is directly related to its ability to be relevant in people’s lives. I would argue that in my short time here we have never been more visible, and we have never been more relevant. But at this crossroads the question that needs to be asked is how to maintain and increase the breadth of that relevance. Finding ways to be relevant isn’t something that any one or two or small group of people can define. It requires involvement, and leadership, and energy, and vision. In short, it requires “community.”
That word, community, brings us full circle. A community is something that people choose to be part of. It is something that takes on the personality of the people that comprise it. It is something that needs to have potential, that needs to make itself relevant, that needs to grow and mature and adapt and be resilient, and that needs to be fueled by the collective passion of its members. I’m confident that others will build upon what is here, and will make this vision a reality.
I can’t thank the people I’ve met in my relatively short time here enough for their hospitality, for their warmth and kindness, for their dedication, and for making me a part of their lives. My time in central Pennsylvania has been a time of growth and learning, and I take the experiences of the last several months with me as I move along my path to wherever it leads.
Change is here. Embrace it. Recognize it. Appreciate it. But most importantly, please be part of it.